Listening Quest #5: Marc-Andre Hamelin

Monday, November 2, 2015 by Vicki Martin | Listening Quest

This last weekend I was able to attend the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra with Marc-AndrĂ© Hamelin (it's a French name - don't pronounce the "H" in Hamelin and you should get it!) as their guest. He is a French Canadian pianist and with over 50 recordings available, is considered one of the best! On CBC's list of top 25 Canadian pianists, he ranked #2. He played Mozart's Concerto No. 27, the last one that Mozart wrote. It is serene, quite mellow, and although beautiful to listen to, it was admittedly not particularly exciting to watch because Hamelin makes it look so easy that he barely raises an eyebrow, even when improvising his own cadenza. There isn't a recording of that concerto easily available, but you will get the idea of how he stays looking like he is barely making an effort even when his fingers are flying in this video. This is Debussy's L'isle Joyeuse, which means The Joyful Island, and you can hear the water and the joy bubbling up.

Extra Exploring: My favourite recording of Hamelin's is of music by Kapustin, who was a Russian composer of jazz music. Yes, that's a strange combination, since jazz is more often improvised than composed, and the Russians aren't particularly well known for jazz music. You can hear some of it here, although the video is nothing more than a picture of Kapustin for the first half and Hamelin in his younger years for the second. It's still some fantastically fun music!